October is National Disability Awareness Month, a time to learn about issues facing people with disabilities and celebrate their contributions. Kū Kanaka/Stand Tall, by Marlene Booth, follows a young disabled Native Hawaiian man, whose traumatic accident leads him to find healing through his indigenous language and history, and fight for his people. Tocando la Luz (Touch the Light , by Jennifer Redfearn, tells the story of three blind women in Havana, Cuba, who pursue their dreams while illuminating Cuba’s current economic and social landscape. Sins Invalid: An Unshamed Claim to Beauty documents a Bay Area performance project that highlights people of color and queer people with disabilities, creating work about disability, sexuality and social justice. See more films about disability here.
Hispanic Heritage Month runs from September 15 to October 15, coinciding with the anniversaries of independence of several countries including México, Chile and Guatemala. New Day offers an excellent collection of films that tell powerful stories from these countries, and celebrate the contributions
of Hispanic and Latino Americans to the United States. Stages: Intergenerational Theater on the Lower East Side follows a group of older Puerto Rican women as they work with urban youth to create a play out of the stories of their lives, while Abrazos tracks the transformational journey of a group of U.S. children who travel 3,000 miles from Minnesota to Guatemala to visit their parents’ homeland.
October also brings the opportunity to focus on our communities with two more special commemorations. National Community Planning Month honors the role of planners and planning in our communities. New Days films Land of Opportunity and Made In Brooklyn both take a look at the impact of planning in cities like New Orleans, Durham, Albuquerque, Burlington and New York.
National Disability Awareness Month is a time to educate about disability issues and to celebrate the contributions of Americans with disabilities. In The Key of G, we learn about a uniquely successful model of supported living for people with physical and developmental disabilities. In Sins Invalid, a film and performance project conceived and led by disabled people of color, normative paradigms of “normal” and “sexy” are challenged, offering instead a vision of beauty and sexuality inclusive of all individuals and communities.
October is Disability Awareness Month, and it’s the perfect time to make sure that Disability Studies, Art, Culture and Politics are
integrated into any topic you are teaching. Whether you’re teaching Social Work, Medicine, Gender Studies, Black History, Performance Studies, or Early Childhood Development, examining and learning from a disabled experience will provide a fuller and deeper understanding of the course materials for your students. Below are some guidelines to help integrate the perspectives of people with disabilities into your classroom.
DON’T perpetuate the myth of the “tragic cripple.” You know, the story where someone is disabled and miserable, and everything they do is so hard, and everyone around them is brought down by their struggle, and then maybe they almost achieve happiness but then… they die. Learn to identify this trope so you can call it out when you see it. DO offer stories and examples of people with
disabilities who are living complex, full lives, who are in reciprocal relationships, who make choices and have life journeys.Mimi and Dona, one of New Day’s recent acquisitions, documents the symbiotic relationship between an aging mother and her disabled daughter, offering a useful jumping off point for analyzing dynamics of inter/dependence. The Key of Gis another film that shows a disabled person growing and changing in the context of a community who loves them.
DON’T teach our stories solely through the lens of the medical establishment, or assume that all people with disabilities want a cure. DO examine complexities of access to health care,
allocation of resources, and how these privileges break down along race/class/age/gender lines. Fixed is a useful documentary for examining the politics of “human enhancement” and the impetus toward “fixing” people’s bodies rather than taking care of people’s basic needs.
DON’T succumb to the false-positive messaging of ‘inspiration porn’ – you know, the story about the amazing disabled person who, despite all their hardship
s is still able to rise above and overcome their circumstances, inspiring able-bodied people to say, “If they can do it, what’s my excuse?” This narrative centers the able-bodied experience and perpetuates competitive, ableist constructions of “success” and “failure.” DO share materials created by people with disabilities where we frame our own experiences.Who Am I to StopItis a compelling documentary about three artists with traumatic brain injuries, made by a filmmaker with disabilities from brain injury.
DON’T hold up one type of disability as the “true” disability. Disability is an intentionally broad category that includes people with mobility impairments, people who belong to sensory minorities, people with psychiatric disabilities, chronic illnesses, learning disabilities, cognitive challenges, chronic pain, and more. DO
encourage awareness of the ways our society disables us by stigmatizing the ways we show up in the world. Michael and His Dragonand When I Came Homeboth follow soldiers who return from Iraq with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. Twitch and Shoutis about people with Tourette Syndrome, a neurological condition that is often misunderstood.
DON’T perpetuate unconscious use of ableist language that frames disability as bad. This includes words like “crazy” when you mean abusive, “lame” when you mean uncool, or “blind” when you mean ignorant, or even words like “weak” or “stupid” that imply ableist hierarchies. DO examine the use of identity labels, including “disability” itself – how are these words used by people who identify with them? Identify nuances of language that differentiate between what we want others to call us, and what we call ourselves. In
DON’T feed into stereotypes of disabled people as sexless and childlike. People with disabilities have desires, are desired by other people, enjoy sex (solo, partnered, in groups…), have relationships, and experience all the ups and downs and ins and outs that come with being an embodied being. People with disabilities are also at high risk of sexual assault, so sex education is crucial to understanding what is happening and knowing that we have a choice. DO promote work by disabled people that explores sexuality. Sins Invalidfollows the eponymous Disability Justice performance project and movement-building organization that creates work around disability and sexuality, centralizing artists of col
or and queer and gender-variant artists with disabilities.
DON’T isolate disability from other identities, or play ableism against other forms of oppression. There are disabled people in every demographic, so any struggle for justice and liberation also affects people with disabilities. DO share examples of people navigating simultaneous experiences of racism, ableism, sexism, and more. Making Noise in Silence looks at intersections of deafness, youth, immigration, and race in the lives of two young deaf Korean students. E Haku Inoa: To Weave a Name
looks at the impact of colonization on a mother’s mental health.
DON’T assume that people with disabilities are always in the position of receiving but not giving. Many of us who are disabled are also caregivers, therapists, parents, medical professionals, teachers, and healers. DO look at the ways our lives change over time and how the amount and type of care we receive and offer fluctuates at different moments. States of Gracefollows the story
of Dr. Grace Dammann, a pioneering AIDS specialist whose near-fatal car accident changes her perception of self and relationship to her body and family.
DON’T assume that nobody in the classroom has the disability you’re discussing. Disabled people are not a separate group – “they” are part of the “we” that you’re speaking to. DO model accessibility in the classroom by providing opportunities for access needs to be identified, including bio breaks, seating options, lighting changes, large print, captions, audio description, scent-free space, or whatever the individuals in your class might need in order to participate. Most New Day Films are closed captioned, and a number of them including Fixed, Sins Invalid, The Key of G,and Who Am I to Stop It are audio described fo
r blind audiences. For more thoughts about classroom accessibility issues, Read Me Differentlyis a powerful New Day film about a young woman’s learning differences.
DON’T imagine that you will always be able-bodied! Everybody experiences some type of disability in their life, whether it’s a temporary injury or surgery, a chronic illness, an accident, or just getting old and losing abilities over time. DO co-create a world that recognizes and respects the many ways we live in our minds and bodies.
Explore New Day’s rich collection of films on Disability here.
In honor of LGBTQ Pride Month this upcoming June, queer New Day filmmaker Nomy Lamm offers up a list of suggestions on how best to approach queer and gender-variant issues in the classroom.
Know our history and embrace our elders. Learning about our
legacy helps us understand who we are. For example, the film Reporter Zerotells the story of Randy Shilts, the first openly gay journalist in the mainstream media, who covered the AIDS crisis when few others would. Before You Know Itoffers a loving portrait of gay elders, their wisdom and at times alienation from the culture they helped create, while Beauty Before Agelooks at the emphasis on youth and beauty in gay male culture. The CampaignandOne Wedding and a Revolutionboth share histories of the battle for gay marriage, and the trailblazers who paved the way.
Don’t forget the “T.” Trans people have been here since the
beginning, yet are often left out of the conversation about LGBT communities. Currently, anti-trans legislation is sweeping the country, making the world that much less safe for those of us whose existence lies outside the binary. Learn more about the lives, perspectives, and unique experiences of trans people in New Day films including Trinidad, Prodigal Sons, and The Family Journey: Raising Gender Nonconforming Children.
Be Intersectional. When we talk about the liberation of LGBTQ
people, we must center the perspectives and experiences of LGBT people of color, queers with disabilities, and those of us who are living at the crossroads of multiple identities, and therefore are most impacted by systems of oppression. Pariah, Sins Invalid, and Mind/Game: The Unquiet Journey of Chamique Holdsclaw each tell stories of the often overlapping gifts and struggles of being queer, black, brown, and disabled.
Look beyond the U.S. The layers of identity, experience,
oppression and resilience are mirrored and contrasted when we look beyond the borders of the United States. City of Bordersis set in the only gay bar in the city of Jerusalem, exposing the homophobia faced in a conservative religious city, as well as power dynamics and alliances between Israeli and Palestinian queers. Tales of the Wariahighlights trans women in Indonesia, home of the world’s largest Muslim population, and the pressures of family, religion, money, and aging, as they strive to be true to themselves and find love.
Honor our youth. Queer youth are some of the most vulnerable
and most dynamic members of our community, and they have much to teach us. While homophobia and bullying can isolate our youth and make them believe they have no options, the empowerment of queer youth voices is a balm for our collective spirit. The Year We Thought About Love, Gay Youth, and I’m Just Annekeeach reveal some of the hardships faced by queer youth, including the threat of violence, homelessness, and suicide, as well as the healing that is possible through storytelling, community, art, activism, and belief in oneself.
Bear witness to the violence and discrimination that LGBTQ
people are subjected to. The LGBTQ community has earned hard-won advances and a sense of pride, but often these victories come in the face of devastating loss and violence. Laramie Inside Outwrestles with the legacy of Matthew Shepard’s murder, while Puzzlesteases out contributing factors of a violent hate crime in Massachusetts. Out at Workillustrates what happens when LGBTQ people are not protected from workplace discrimination. Out In The Night shows how interpersonal and institutional homophobia and racism compound each other, when four Black lesbian youth end up serving time in prison and facing assault charges for fighting back against an assailant.
Encourage students to examine their own homophobia. It’s
As we celebrate Disability Awareness Month this October, we recognize the many gains the Disability Rights movement has made over the past four decades. Through grass-roots protests and political campaigns, activists helped put in motion legislation guaranteeing equal access under the law to jobs, schools, transportation, public spaces, housing and attendant care. Later victories included the de-institutionalization of hundreds of thousands of people with disabilities under the Olmsted Decision.
While these gains have improved the quality of life for many, the Disability Rights movement has left a number of “cliffhangers,” as Patty Berne, a leader in the Disability Justice movement, puts it. The focus on single-issue rights and highlighting of wheelchairs as the primary symbol of disability have unintentionally left many behind. By ignoring the influence of race, class, gender, and sexuality on disability, we overlook the complexity and needs of the broader disability community. Similarly, the exclusive focus on mobility impairments has meant that bridges have not always been built with members of our extended communities—such as people with mental health disabilities, or who experience chronic pain, or who are blind or Deaf. In response to these needs, the Disability Justice movement has arisen with people of color at the forefront, articulating a new framework that is intersectional and interdependent.
Sins Invalid: An Unshamed Claim to Beauty documents a Bay Area performance project that highlights artists with disabilities who are queer, gender non-conforming, and people of color, and who create work around themes of disability, sexuality, and social justice. Director Patty Berne, poet Leroy Moore, and a dozen other artists share their intimate and beautiful process and work, offering an entryway into the absurdly taboo topic of sexuality and disability.
When filmmaker Christen Marquez was born, her mother, a kumu hula (master hula practitioner), gave her a Hawaiian name that was over sixty letters. Eight years later, her mother was diagnosed with schizophrenia and Christen and her siblings were taken away from her. E Haku Inoa: To Weave a Nametells of Christen’s return to Hawaii, and is an elegant depiction of how the act of sharing indigenous knowledge can play a healing role in restoring otherwise estranged relationships. Marquez reflects, ”There is a stigma of sickness that is imported into indigenous communities and although there are many health problems that exist in indigenous communities, I wonder if some diagnoses aren’t a fulfillment of an expectation.Many people don’t need a diagnosis; they just need someone to help them heal.”
Director/producer Mina Son explores the richness and complexities of Deaf culture in Making Noise in Silence, through the perspective of two Korean high school students who attend the California School for the Deaf, Fremont. Born and raised in South Korea, Jeongin Mun and Min Wook Cho have strong ties to their Korean heritage and learned Korean as their first language. However, what separates Jeongin and Min Wook from most children of immigrant families is that they are also deaf. Filmmaker Mina Son shares: “Deaf immigrants face many of the same challenges people with multiple identities face. Navigating multiple languages, cultures, and histories can be overwhelming, especially for a young person who is still trying to understand who they are and where they belong.”
Mind/Game: The Unquiet Journey of Chamique Holdsclaw, by Academy Award-nominated director Rick Goldsmith, is the portrait of a Black woman with a mental illness. Chamique Holdsclaw is a 3-time NCAA champ and No.1 draft pick in the WNBA from Astoria, Queens– sometimes called “the female Michael Jordan.” With the help of narrator Glenn Close, Mind/Game intimately chronicles her athletic accomplishments, personal setbacks, and her decision—despite public stigma— to become an outspoken mental health advocate.
Dan Lohaus’ powerful film,When I Came Home, follows the struggles of Herold Noel, an African-American Iraq war veteran who becomes homeless in New York City after returning from combat with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. Focusing on Herold’s struggle with the Veterans Administration and city agencies to find the help he needs, When I Came Home reveals a failing system and exposes the “second war” that many veterans must fight after they return home from war.
These films reveal the multiple layers of struggle that disabled people of color must navigate every day, with insight into the human drive toward beauty, empowerment and connection. What is it like to learn American Sign Language as a new immigrant to the US? What are the cultural misunderstandings between the western medical model and indigenous ways of knowing? What does radical embodiment at the intersection of multiple identities look and feel like? How do people heal from the devastation of war when they come home to find a culture that doesn’t include them? New Day hopes these films will illuminate the perspectives of those who have typically been at the margins of the Disability Rights movement, whose daily existence is the embodiment of intersectional activism.
To see our whole collection of disability films, click here.